Will Your Customers Do Absolutely Anything To Consume Your Product?

From the ‘ideas from strange places’ department.

Reading about poisonous beans in Beans: A History by ken Albala and have to say, I’m amazed at what lengths we will go through to consume something we really need or want. 

In other words, want it bad enough, and some human will figure out a combination of soaking, crushing, boiling, and washing until it is ready enough to eat. 

Same goes true with new or unique products.  Sometimes the need for something new is so attractive that consumers will put up with almost anything to take part. Sometimes as marketers all we can do is outline the correct soak, crush and boil procedure so that customers get what they want.

However, as a market matures your customers become less willing to accept such flaws. 

Enter the lesson of the humble bean. Seems that several types of toxic beans also happen to be the hardiest, most drought resistant varieties.  So, when all else fails you choke down Lathyrus (the English chickling vetch) or the Jack Bean (shape bears ominous similarity to a scimitar).  There are ways to process most toxic beans so that they won’t kill you right away.  Takes a lot of time.  Doesn’t always work. But, heck, you’re hungry, right?

Don’t see the similarity yet?  Think PC and Windows.  In the 80’s we were so amazed that the technology existed – so amazed that we could correct our term paper without whiteout – so eager to play Zork — that all the crashes, lousy interface, low memory and other limitations meant nothing.  We would snap them up the second they were available and live with hours of set-up misery.  Our anger at Windows was mitigated by the wonder of all we could suddenly do.  

But as the market matured and there was less obvious benefits to upgrading, we stuck with what was working, or switched to Apple. We ran away from pain towards the easier experience. And Microsoft had an entire operating system effectively fail in the marketplace. 

Same thing with beans.

Times are good – ya’eat the tasty ones.

Times are bad – ya’eat whatever you can get.

How does this apply to your product?  Does the gain outweigh the pain? How rapidly could the bean equation flip for you? This is another take on what I called The Bean Scale in an earlier post – forces outside your control can really change individuals attitude towards your product and you.

Oh, and one more tidbit from Beans: A History – Evidently the Calabar bean is used as a dueling weapon in some parts.  The duelists each take a bite of a Calabar bean.  The one who lives, wins.

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